My Center Parcs history
I’ve worked at Center Parcs for 25 years; I started when I was 29 years old.
I actually started on the Village as a babysitter. My friend told me there were jobs being advertised at what was then called the call centre; I applied and I’ve worked here ever since. Things have changed a lot over my time here; when I started there were ten of us and one Village. Now there’s an office full of us and we’re about to open a fifth Village. The company has just grown and grown. It’s nice to have been part of it from the beginning. We have a wide range of people that work in the contact centre – youngsters, men, women and older ones, too.
It’s a really nice place to work and I have a lot of friends here. Linda [Whyatt, Contact Centre Manager] recognises us all and she’s very good at motivating everyone. If anybody has a problem, there’s always someone that will solve it.
What my job involves
To do this job well, you need to learn a lot – there’s so much knowledge involved. The most difficult part to get your head around is the accommodation because there are so many different types. I book holidays, activities and offer general information. More often than not, people call up for information on lodges. Of course, guests can – and do – look on the website, but once they call and I explain exactly what’s inside, they’re more interested.
“When I started there were ten of us and one Village. Now there’s an office full of us and we’re about to open a fifth Village. The company has just grown and grown”
Although there is a 70/30 split between website and phone booking, we get a lot of people calling us and saying: “I’d rather speak to someone.” I can understand that; if you’re paying a lot of money, some people want reassurance. Quite often people will call with a simple question and by the end of our conversation they’ll have booked. Maybe it’s the way I speak! I often get told I sound much younger than I actually am, which is always nice to hear.
My typical day at work
I only live about 15 minutes away which is handy to get to work. The contact centre works in shifts, seven days a week, 364 days a year. The only day we’re closed is Christmas Day; and we come in on Boxing Day to find messages from Christmas Day! Every day is different – you don’t know what you’re going to do until you pick up the phone. It can be anything from availability to wanting to know prices of activities and lodges. Because I’ve been here for so long, I can take any calls whereas the new employees just take booking enquiries, not calls for the activities or spa. It’s a lot to take in and at a place like this knowledge and experience is really valuable.
At the moment we’re exceptionally busy – every January is the same in the contact centre because lots of people want to book a break. When we know there is a new TV advert going out, we can expect even more interest. This year already we’ve had lots of calls from people that say: “We’ve seen the TV advert, can you send me a brochure? Can you tell me more?” Then they’ll come back and they’ll book. I think that after the buzz of Christmas people want a lift – they just want somewhere to go and something to look forward to.
But no matter how busy we are, the mood never changes. Everyone mucks in together. In January we hire extra staff to cope with the demand; we’ve had two intakes of new starters so far. Everyone keeps each other going; we’ll tell each other stories about funny calls we’ve had or talk about what we did after work. It’s not a job that you can be down in. I always say that you might come in feeling fed up but you never go home feeling down.
My most memorable experience
A few years ago I answered a call to a woman who wanted to book a Treehouse. I could tell that she was ill because I could hear her oxygen machine on the other side. I could hear her laboured breathing. She told me that she had two young children and wanted to give them a holiday that they’ll remember, as she only had a short time to live.
The lady asked whether this Treehouse would have a games console in and, at that point in time, our Treehouses didn’t have that particular one. So I rang the Village to explain the situation and asked whether we could get one, to pull the stops out for her, which the Village quickly did. After all, we are here to help. If we can do something for someone then we do it – I think that’s what makes Center Parcs the company that it is.
“I answered a call to a woman..she told me that she had two young children and wanted to give them a holiday that they’ll remember, as she only had a short time to live”
A month or so later, the husband of this lady called me to say that they’d all really enjoyed their time but that his wife had passed away soon after. That really did upset me; I think it will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Strange but true
In my 25 years of working here I have had some interesting, funny and downright bizarre calls. Lots of people want to know about pets: ‘Can I bring my cat?’ ‘Can I bring my goldfish?’ ‘Can I bring three dogs?’ You’d be surprised.
When I first started working for Center Parcs as a babysitter at the Sherwood Forest Village, I’d gone into a lodge one night and I heard a splash in the bathroom. The guests staying there pretended like I hadn’t heard it and said: ‘Oh, don’t worry about that.’
I walked in and there was a turtle in there. A turtle! Splashing around in the bath. God knows how the owner had smuggled that through.